Following in the footsteps of Alfred Russel Wallace
June 15, 2023
A magical hour in the presence of rare and beautiful mountain gorillas is an experience that is bound to leave you spellbound. A gorilla safari – be it in Uganda or Rwanda – is a transformative experience that will stay with you for a lifetime and it is certainly one of the most immersive wildlife encounters you can take part in. Tracking the gorillas is all part of the adventure, and your rangers will be in constant communication with each other to keep up to date with the primates’ location. Depending on where the habituated gorilla groups are on the day of your expedition, you could have a long day of trekking ahead of you. It pays to be prepared so that you can focus on the experience itself rather than your blistered feet or your rumbling tum. Here’s our definitive packing list for gorilla trekking, to make sure you get the most out of your experience.
It’s important to keep your skin covered to protect it from the vegetation you might encounter. There are vines that can sting and thorns that can snag, so wearing long sleeves and trousers is a definite necessity. A lightweight waterproof jacket is also a good idea in case it rains, and it is a smart move to wear quick dry clothing that won’t get waterlogged if the forest is damp.
Gaiters or thick socks
There are lots of thorns and prickles and insects hiding in the undergrowth in the forests of Africa, so you need to ensure you have your ankles covered. Either wear a decent thick pair of socks – long enough to tuck your trousers into – or wear gaiters.
Lightweight, tough hiking boots
The forest habitat of the mountain gorillas is by definition wild. The gorillas move around and in order to find them you may end up traversing virgin forest, and the going can get pretty tough at times. Comfy, lightweight walking boots or shoes are a definite necessity, and they should be well broken in before your trek.
You won’t regret investing in a pair of gardening gloves for your gorilla trek experience. Moving through dense undergrowth is made easier by the rangers who cut through the vegetation up ahead, but inevitably you will need to untangle yourself from vines or shift branches aside as you make your way through the forest, and a pair of tough gloves will be invaluable.
You shouldn’t need to carry much on your gorilla trek, but it’s handy to have a small rucksack to put your camera, snacks, water and so on in, so you have your hands free for negotiating the undergrowth – and at times for holding on to tree trunks if you are tackling a tricky section of terrain.
It’s not just gorillas that make the forests of Uganda and Rwanda their home. There are over 300 species of birds to look out for, not to mention other primates. Binoculars will come in handy for spotting all this wonderful wildlife.
When you set out on a gorilla tracking adventure, the rangers will have a good idea of where the gorillas are headed, but their range is broad and you could be on the move through difficult terrain for some hours before you reach them. Bear in mind that making your way through thick vegetation on uneven ground is often tiring, and energy snacks might come in very handy to give you a boost along the way, or during the return leg back to base.
It goes without saying that you are likely to want to take lots of photos of your encounter with the mountain gorillas. Don’t get caught out with flat batteries, make sure you pack spare batteries or a power pack and even a couple of spare memory cards if you are a keen snapper. Expert photographers might want to consider bringing more than one camera, each with a different lens attached, so you don’t waste a minute of your precious hour with the gorillas messing around with camera gear.
Damp misty forests are a favourite stomping ground of all kinds of insects, and it can be useful to carry insect repellent in case you attract the biting variety.
Make it happen
If you want to find out more about the gorilla safari trekking trips on offer with our local experts, have a look at our Rwanda and Uganda pages. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.